Greetings Mark and Deborah of Gearbox Comic. How are you doing this evening?
We are currently fine. And animating.
You’ve recently started Gearbox. Could you give me a brief rundown of what Gearbox is?
Gearbox is a trans-media mash up of comics, animation, music and live-action video. The story follows Xiao, a novice warrior who travels to parallel realities in an effort to derail the advance of the Monocline – a brutal female society that has plagued the universes for years and are holding Xiao’s mentor captive. That’s the basic log-line. It’s a story that’s been gestating inside my (Mark’s) head for about ten years and it seemed like the right time to finally realize it.
What inspired you to try and mash up different types of media for the project?
Gearbox first and foremost, is a comic book but given that we had such diverse interests and experiences in so many different kinds of media, we decided to put them all together and see what worked. The technological possibilities of the internet and mobile devices right now are growing so fast that it seemed like the right time to tap into that. A lot of on-line comics are cool but they’re not using the media for its strengths.
Did you examine or take inspiration from any projects in particular that seemed to at least partially go in the right direction?
There are a few motion comics that we really like but Gearbox is more of a wild west project than anything else. Trans-media — the idea of what it is and what it could become — is so new that there isn’t really much out there yet. We also want Gearbox to develop into a project that involves other artists taking story threads and developing them in whatever direction they like — an exquisite corpse.
So how is Gearbox going to be published or released?
Right now it exists solely on-line, and can be viewed on most mobile devices and computers. We have a very un-scheduled schedule of updates we call fragments, which are new parts of the story that we drop into the site as fast as we’re able to create them. Which isn’t so fast unfortunately. The mixed media reality is that it takes a realllllllllly long time to create. We hope to build the site out and ultimately have a printed version – a comic book version!
Were there any comics that really inspired your work on the project?
I (Mark) am inspired by artists like Barron Storey, Moebius, Grant Morrison, writers like Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson, as well as a lot of animators and filmmakers.
Before we wrap up is there anything that you’d like to plug besides Gearbox?
Deborah’s bandmate, Jamie Jackson, composed all the music for Gearbox. Their band, Hot As Sun, are currently working on their first full-length album. Hotassun.com and you can find all of our collaborations at: Waverlystock.com. Thanks!
Nerdcenaries: Greetings Matt Wilson of Copernicus Jones, the Comics Alliance sponsored podcast War Rocket Ajax as well as internet projects such as The Content Farm and The ISS!
Matt Wilson: Hi, Luke. Thanks for asking me to do this.
N: No problem. I’m always happy to make easy content with these interviews.
MW: You are a true Internet Journalist.
N: When I end up producing two articles a day plus organizing the work everyone else does along with looking for work it is the little things in life. If you had to compare yourself with one Poke’Mon from the original, who would you choose. As in – who is your spirit Poke’Mon?
MW: I’ll admit something to you, Luke. Unlike my War Rocket Ajax co-host Chris Sims, I am no expert in Pokemon. Charizard, I guess? That one was pretty neat.
N: Haha, gosh Matt. Failing already. If Sims reads this he might start looking for a new partner.
MW: I’m his non-Pokemon watching, non-brony counterpoint. I balance him out. We’re like the Andre 3000 and Big Boi of comics podcasting
N: Haha. Well, how did you get your start in this wild internet territory?
MW: I’ve been writing Internet comedy for basically a decade now, starting with a blog in college. Somehow I managed to make some connections and get some freelance work for National Lampoon and Cracked.com, where I met Chris. After I was at Cracked, I started the ISS. Then I kind of branched out after that into all the stuff I’m doing.
N: What would you say the key to conquering this Internet humor landscape is, preferably in a nonsensical message?
MW: Ego. So much of what I’ve written on the Internet is simply the result of a wild, unchecked ego. And hey, I got a book deal out of it! So I would suggest having no self-restraint whatsoever. You’ll go far. (Also, luck, and getting to know people who are funnier than you.)
N: Do you think writing comedy is more about writing what you find funny or writing what you hope others find funny?
MW: I guess it depends on your goal. Part of the reason I quit writing for Cracked is that it became so focused on whether commenters would agree with the lists rather than find them funny. At the ISS, I did a lot more of just writing what I thought was funny. And, you know, Cracked still updates and gets huge traffic. You have to find a balance, I guess. Write the crazy stuff that’s funny to you, and throw in a linkbait list in there here and there. That’s how you keep your muse and need to be liked in check.
N: Would you call video gaming webcomics the equivalent then to the Blue Collar Comedy Tour? Where they are targeted to such a limited audience less because they want to write it and more for popularity?
MW: Heh. Certainly not all of them. Some are genuinely funny. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a niche. After all, I’ve written plenty of comedy about comics. Some webcomics–not just the ones about video games–clearly do pander and go straight to the lowest common denominator. And of course, a lot of those are extremely popular. But they’re not all like that.
N: It’s like there is Bill Hicks on one scale and Larry the Cable Guy on another.
MW: I’d have a hard time naming a webcomics equivalent to Bill Hicks, but sure.
N: Haha. I know what you mean. Gamer comics have less longevity that most standup. Now I know you are also a rap fan. If you got to pick any Wu-Tang Clan member to take over the role of any Avenger or Justice League member and to gain their powers, who would you pick?
MW: The easy answer is to make Ghostface Killah, aka Tony Starks, Iron Man. But I’m not one to take the easy path. I think the GZA, the Genius, should become Aquaman. He has liquid swords! He’d be a much better Aquaman than the one we have.
N: Doesn’t the one Aqualad have liquid swords?
MW: Your question didn’t say anything about Teen Titans.
N: The only Teen Titans I ever cared or knew much about was the one cartoon.
MW: Same here.
N: Now you are writing this new webcomic Copernicus Jones. Is this your first webcomic?
MW: The first one that actually officially launch, yes. I had a Penny-Arcade-style webcomic with a friend seven or eight years ago, and we made a few strips, but it never really got off the ground.
N: But now you’ve gone to Copernicus Jones with Dan Butler. How would you describe that?
MW: Well, I came up with the name long before it became a comic. Jay Pinkerton, the writer who brought me to Cracked, had a forum on his old comedy site where we’d often repurpose old comics. A lot of my entries in those comics contests would involve giving characters funny names and funny titles. Like, one was “Abber Abdabber, Town Crier.” The name and title “Copernicus Jones: Robot Detective” came from that. Eventually it entered my head to make it a real comic. I started with the idea of making it a noir parody, but as I wrote the script it’s become something else. Its a genuine noir story. Just with robots in it.
N: Are we actually going to see Abber Adabber in the comics?
MW: No, I think he’ll only have his one appearance on that forum that doesn’t exist anymore.
N: Now is Copernicus Jones going to be a webcomic you plan to keep going indefinitely or will do you have a planned ending for it?
MW: I’ll just have to see where it goes. I don’t have a planned ending for it, no. Though the next arc will be pretty different. You’ll see a much younger, much fresher Copernicus, back when he was on the police force.
N: Is Copernicus going to have a crossover with Atomic Robo?
MW: That would almost certainly be up to Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegna, not me and Daniel. It’d be hard to find a story for them both to exist in, but it’d be fun.
N: Would you rather have more ridiculous cross franchise comic crossovers or less? I mean, I’d like to see Copernicus Jones and Hector Plasm.
MW: I think crossovers can be a lot of fun, as long as they make sense. Copernicus is hard to cross over with anyone, really, because he exists in such a particularly genre-specific world, though. Putting Hector Plasm in our noir setting or moving Copernicus into a creepy, horror setting would be weird.
N: Now, you’ve been on War Rocket Ajax for almost a year now after replacing Euge. How long will it be before you start performing as Adam WarRock?
MW: Ha. I think Euge would probably take me to court if I tried. And he’s got legal experience, so I’d definitely lose.
N: Could you kill him before that or even rub him out since you live in Chicago and therefore you know at least two mafiettes?
MW: Maybe. Admitting to it here probably wouldn’t help me get away with it, though. And I’m more familiar with supervillains than I am mafiosos.
N: Haha. Is there anything else you’d like to pimp before we go?
MW: Well, as I mentioned, I know quite a bit about supervillains. In fact, I wrote a book about them! Or, should I say, my alter ego King Oblivion Ph.D. did. It’s called The Supervillain Handbook, and it comes out next April from Skyhorse Publishing. It’s got full-color illustrations by artist Adam Wallenta, and I’d like to think it’s pretty dad-blasted funny.
N: Is dad-blasted different from dad-blastaared?
MW: If you’re dad-blasted, that’s bad. If you’re dad-blastaared, you should probably just give up.
N: Well Matt, thank you for your time!
MW: Sure. Thanks, Luke.
Nerdcenaries: Greetings Phil Kahn of the webcomic Guilded Age!
Phil Kahn: Salutations, Luke!
N: So for those readers who have not heard of you, who are you Phil?
PK: I’m… basically a professional weirdo.
N: Well, what was your first professionally weird project?
PK: Probably the wiki for webcomics-themed cocktails. With accompanying video podcast.
N: Oooh, that sounds good as an amateur drinker. What was your favorite?
PK: Definitely the Banurtle, inspired by Better You Than Me, the previous comic of Lee Cherolis (now of Little Guardians). It was what happens when you cross a banana with a turtle.
1 Part Midori
1 Part Banana Schnapps
Sprite to taste over ice
It was definitely the best tasting recipe we ever featured.
N: Haha. So now you have a webcomic called Guilded Age. What drink would sum up Guilded Age?
PK: Oh jeez. If I had to decide right now… a shot of Goldschlager dropped into a tankard of ale.
N: Haha. Well why not sum up Guilded Age for the uninitiated then?
PK: It’s the saga of the working class adventurer. Arkerra is a fantasy universe that has just seen the dawn of the industrial age, and now wealth accumulation and emerging technology have cast a vast divide amongst the varying races of the land. And as dominance is asserted, resistance rises and causes a continent to go to war with itself. And as our band of adventurers will find, it’s not so simple as killing kobolds for loot anymore.
N: Now I’ve read and enjoyed the comic so far and I feel obligated to ask, are you a tabletop gamer?
PK: I’d love to say “Yes,” but I never get to play anymore because I went and did a comic about fantasy so now I don’t get to fantasy game anymore! But I did for a long time, and spent a good few years recreationally pretending to be someone else in World of Warcraft.
N: When you did play were you a DM more often?
PK: Usually, yeah, because my friends never want to and I’m a control freak anyway, haha. But I had a lot of fun running adventures, because I got to tell a story collaboratively with a bunch of my pals, chuck dice and drink liberally. And do voices for all the NPCs.
N: I was the DM type as well. I loved that part more. So what other webcomics are you enjoying right now?
PK: Webcomics are pretty great right now. A lot of good work is rising to the top. Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is a great one for the gaming crowd. Edmund Finney’s Quest to Find the Meaning of Life is the closest thing in my life to having Monty Python again. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal always delivers, every day of the week. ErfWorld is our comrade-at-fantasy-webcomics-arms and is badass besides. And Frankenstein Superstar is a really cool one I just found that’s one big love letter to rock & roll and classic pinup girls.
N: Now you are also collaborating with T Campbell on Guilded Age. How does that work?
PK: Miraculously. Seriously, though, T and I work really well together because we’re basically polar opposites in human beings. But we’re able to take this bizarre storytelling Yin and Yang we’ve got and churn out a story that meets both of our standards and tastes. Our #1 rule is that we will never publish anything that one of the both of us is unhappy with. So when we hammer our combined ideas of what “quality” is together, we come out with one strangely unified voice. And then John Waltrip uses his mutant power to manifest text into awesome. But if you want to get technical about it, we each write half the script and then edit the crap out of each other to the degree of endangering our friendship, haha.
N: Haha. So it is sort of like Venture Bros?
PK: In a way, yeah. I’m a big fan of the show, and it finds its influence into my work in more ways than one.
N: Well like there apparently both of the writers pound out half of the season and then they come together and combine it.
PK: Right. What we do differently is that we do it chapter by chapter, together, following a larger plot outline we’ve agreed on. We’ll break a chapter into six four-page scenes and then each draft half of them. Then we go through a lengthy revisions process. Where feelings get hurt.
N: How much of it consists of name calling?
PK: More than I’d care to admit, haha.
N: Haha. So who is your favorite superhero?
PK: Right now it’s definitely Larfleeze. That guy rocks my world.
PK: I hope it won’t be like a year before we see him in the new DCU.
N: Actually they announced it is going to be pretty soon.
PK: Fan. Tastic. I demand that DC gives me more Larfleeze immediately.
N: Haha. And they are going to announce his oath. Though I have an issue with the Green Lanterns in the DCU. Mainly that they weren’t rebooted at all. And they were trying to make it open for new readers.
PK: Really the whole thing is a shitshow. I read JLA#1 and gave up right away. I came at it like a new reader, because I am a new reader to DC. I was into a few pieces before then but I was really ready to see what they had to offer in their first week, their single salvo. And just… wasn’t hooked. And I’ve been hearing some of it’s pretty good and that’s good news. I’d hate for the whole thing to be a bust. But this feels like the 90’s again. And not just because of Jim Lee. It’s just… the same damn thing as Heroes Reborn only DC went whole hog. And everyone looks “cutting edge.” I have a lot more to say about this than I thought, especially since I’ve made mine Marvel since birth, hahaha.
N: Yeah. I started with Marvel comics when I started at the comic shop I worked at. Or well I started with Dark Horse and Vertigo before that.
PK: R.I.P. Vertigo.
N: The hilarious thing is that most of the comics that people love the most art miniseries or one-shots outside of continuity. Why not reboot the entire series with established character ideas and then more limited series?
PK: I don’t know, man, I’m not a doctor. They didn’t need to reboot at all. If they wanted to reach new readers, they just had to change the way they do everything. But rebooting is the low-risk option.
N: Miniseries would be a safer bet. You can see how people react to entire series with less investments, allow popular characters more reasonable exposure and you don’t need to worry about continuity.
PK: That’s one way to do it, sure. They just haven’t changed their method in going on 20 years and it doesn’t take a doctor to see why that’s a problem.
N: Verily. Is there anything else you want to pimp before we go?
PK: We have a book! You can order it at our store!
N: Awesome! Well thank you for you time Phil Kahn.
PK: Thank you for the opportunity to get on Dan DiDio’s bad side.
N: It’s my pleasure.